For the 37th year in a row Salina Chef Bill Fekas prepared the biggest Christmas dinner in town.
Bright sunshine and mild temperatures set the scene as a large crowd gathered for the annual Bill Fekas Family Christmas Dinner at the 4H building in Kenwood Park.
Fekas has been doing this since the early 1980s. He had a dream in 1982 to prepare and serve a free dinner for anyone who was alone on Christmas Day. Late Salina businessman Dean Evans told him to get the ball rolling and he would pay the bill. That first year there were about 30 people at the event.
Over the years the dinner, which is still free to anyone who wants to attend, has grown exponentially. Fekas, with the help of a small army of volunteers, this year prepared enough food to feed 0ver 4,000 people. Among other things they prepared over 200 turkeys, a half-ton of potatoes, and stuffing made from over 800 loaves of bread.
The event on Christmas Tuesday did not disappoint. A large crowd was already gathered when the doors opened at 11:00. For those who couldn’t make it to the meal, volunteers stayed busy making home deliveries. As the doors opened there were just as many home deliveries going out as there were people coming in to eat.
Among the volunteers was Suzy Scheef from Marion, Iowa. For the last 9 years she has traveled the nearly 500 miles from Marion to Salina to be a part of the event. She told KSAL News she has family here in Salina. She said it has become a family tradition for all of the them to volunteer. “We love to do it, it’s special to be part of an event that does such a good thing for the community,” she said.
Fekas was all smiles, and all business, as he worked with volunteers serving food.
The goal of the meal is very simple, to put a smile on the face of everyone who attends. Along with a turkey dinner and all the trimmings, there are gifts for the kids and live entertainment.
While the dinner is free for all who attend, it isn’t free for Fekas. Each year he depends on donations to help make it possible, and struggles to come close to breaking even.
Those who want to send a check can mail it to:
Bill Fekas Family Christmas Dinner
PO Box 2173
Salina Kansas 67401